Breakman v. AOL LLC, 545 F. Supp. 2d 96 (D.C. 2008).

Did AOL really think that its loyal members would sit by quietly paying $25.00 a month for dial-up internet service that new members could receive for $9.95 a month? 

In this case, the plaintiff, Paul Breakman, acting in a representative capacity on behalf of the interests of the general public, filed a one count complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleging that AOL engaged in unlawful trade practices in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, D.C. Code §§ 28-3901 et seq., by failing to disclose material facts regarding pricing plans to its current and past members. 

Specifically, AOL allegedly charged its loyal customers $23.90-$25.90 a month for essentially the same dial-up internet service that new members could receive for $9.95 a month and further misled its loyal customers about the availability of the lower priced plan. According to AOL, this lawsuit would reach 28,451 consumers, so AOL filed a notice of removal arguing that the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia had jurisdiction over the action pursuant to CAFA. 

Apparently unknown to AOL, CAFA has an exception to its removal provisions that expressly states that when “all of the claims in the action are asserted on behalf of the general public (and not on behalf of individual claimants or members of a purported class) pursuant to a State statute specifically authorizing such action,” the suit will not be removable pursuant to CAFA. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(11)(B)(ii)(III). 

What the hell? Does AOL not have the online resources to read the provisions of CAFA before removing a case expressly seeking its protections? 

Finding that this case falls squarely within the definitional exclusion of CAFA, the court ultimately held that AOL cannot remove this private attorney general suit to federal court pursuant to CAFA.

You’ve Got State Court, AOL!